Tesla. Prius. Leaf. Volt. These names ring a bell? All are popular hybrid-electric and fully electric vehicles synonymous with reduced environmental footprints – or environmental tire marks, if you will – achieved through the decreased emission of climate change-causing carbon dioxide and other tailpipe pollutants, high fuel economies, and less of a reliance on foreign fossil fuels.
But just wait … going green in the auto department doesn’t necessarily mean investing in one of these cars or spending thousands of dollars to convert your 15-year-old Mercedes to run on peanut oil. There are a few simple ways that you can reduce the environmental impact associated with your existing, conventional engine vehicle, no matter the make, model, or size. Sure, these methods may not be as flashy as actually going the hybrid or EV route but they do add up, benefiting your pocketbook, the environment, and the performance of your car.
• Opt for the green stuff during your next oil change: For consumers in the habit of buying products made from pre- and post-consumer recycled materials – toilet paper, lawn furniture, fleece jackets, and the list goes on and on – flexing that eco-minded consumerist muscle can also be applied to the car as well. An increasing amount of service stations, repair shops, and quick lube businesses now offer oil change services using used motor oil that, through a closed-loop system, has been collected, re-refined, and reborn as new motor oil that’s long-lasting and meets the same rigorous performance standards as conventional virgin crude oil. The next time that you need your oil changed, request motor oil that is refined and recycled from reclaimed oil. If your local quick lube, car dealership or tire store that does oil changes doesn’t yet carry it, make it known that you’re interested.
• Lighten your load: If you’re using the trunk of your car as an auxiliary storage unit, you may want to re-consider and move all that detritus you’ve been hauling around elsewhere. The reason? The more excess weight a car is carrying, the worse off your fuel economy is. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, every 100 pounds of excess weight carried by your car reduces your mileage by 2 to 3 percent. Take a couple hours to de-hoard your vehicle of anything that’s unnecessary (do your golf clubs really need to live in the car all the time) while remembering to keep an emergency kit, blanket, a jug of water, and spare tire in the trunk.
• Don’t put the pedal to the metal: Feel the need for speed? Resist it or you’ll literally pay for it. By driving sensibly, safely, and non-aggressively and by observing the posted speed limit, you won’t only avoid accidents and obscene gestures from your fellow motorists but decreased fuel economy as well. Generally, gas mileage decreases significantly when driving over 60 miles per hour so by taking it easy you’ll save as much as $.24 to $.80 cents per gallon. And by driving like a lunatic – rapid breaking and acceleration, speeding, etc. – you’ll lower gas mileage anywhere from 5 (in town) to 33 percent (highway) according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
• High levels of inflation: Keeping your tires properly inflated is another easy way to increase fuel economy and decrease your auto-related carbon footprint. Plus, being mindful of each tire’s air pressure will prolong their life, saving you money that would otherwise be spent on new tires. It’s recommend that you check your tire’s air pressure once a month (more frequently for high-use drivers) using a tire pressure gauge and being mindful not to over-inflate. Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by as much as 3.3 percent while under-inflated tires can decrease fuel economy by as much as .3 percent for each one pound drop in air pressure. In all, more than 600 million gallons of fuel are wasted per year due to improperly inflated tires, according to SAE International.